Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded the second-last space shuttle mission — and spent months at the side of his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, while the congresswoman recovered from a near-fatal shooting in 2011 — has joined a venture to send tourists 100,000 feet up to get their own space-style view of Earth.
"This is the next step," Kelly told NBC News on Sunday.
Kelly will serve as director of crew operations for Arizona-based World View Enterprises, which is developing a high-altitude balloon and capsule that would take passengers to an altitude of roughly 30 kilometers (19 miles, or 100,000 feet) for an hours-long view of the curving Earth beneath the black sky of space. World View says its flight system could also be used for high-altitude research.
Subscale tests of the system are scheduled to begin next year, with commercial flights due to start as early as 2016. World View said it will start taking flight reservations on Wednesday, at $75,000 a ticket.